Michael Bisping has had a great year. Not many MMA fans could say they saw this coming. On November 7th, 2014 Bisping had his first fight with rising superstar Luke Rockhold. This was a huge fight for both of these men, as the winner would be one fight away from a title fight. At the time I believed that due to his age and reputation as a "stepping stone" this was essentially Bisping's last chance at getting that elusive title shot he coveted for 8 years.
Luke Rockhold then went out and submitted Bisping with a one armed guillotine choke in the second round. This loss was devastating for Bisping due to his distaste for the man he lost to, and the fact that he had never been submitted in his entire career before that point. Not to mention a one armed guillotine choke in MMA is an extremely difficult choke to finish and seeing the submission pulled off successfully was a huge rarity in the sport.
After that fight, I was completely on the Michael Bisping "stepping stone" wagon. He was almost like the Peyton Manning of MMA. He was winning a lot of fights against some middle ground contenders, but whenever he was right on that doorstep of getting that title shot, he would lose every time. In all honesty, I felt bad for him.
Bisping then went on to fight two mediocre at best contenders in C.B. Dollaway and Thales Leites, earning decision victories in both contests, earning him a shot at a big name in the industry, and that big name came. Bisping had gotten himself a fight with Anderson Silva who is viewed by many as the greatest fighter to ever grace this Earth. Seeing as this was a big fight for Michael, I predicted he would continue his trend of losing big fights and lose to Silva.
Bisping instead was the aggressor in the fight. Constantly pressuring Silva towards the cage and hitting him with some nice shots. Bisping even knocks Silva down with a hook in the first round. However, Silva also knocks Bisping down in this fight. The knockdown brought up controversy as Silva, along with many fans, thought Bisping was out cold. The referee, Herb Dean, did not see it that way and the fight continued.
According to the official UFC website, at the end of the 5-round main event, Bisping had outstruck 112 strikes to 75, while also having longer control of the octagon, earning him a unanimous decision victory, and at that time, the biggest victory of his career. It was at this moment his career took a big turn.
With Rockhold winning the championship 2 months earlier, he was scheduled to make his first title defense against the man he had just beaten, Chris Weidman, at UFC 199. Weidman just 2 weeks prior to the fight has to pull out of the fight, and Bisping then gets the call he's been waiting for his whole career, it's his turn. No one gave Bisping a chance in the rematch against Rockhold. Rockhold himself guaranteed a first round victory, and to send Bisping into retirement. What happened at their title fight shocked the entire MMA world.
Bisping connects with a hook, Rockhold stumbles back against the fence and Bisping finishes him with a series of punches, earning him the championship belt. It had taken 10 years, but at long last he had finally done it.
I remember being very happy for Bisping. The man I had counted out 2 years ago after his loss to the same man he had just defeated. His celebration showed a man who had worked his tail off for something for most of his life, faced a lot of adversity, but kept on pushing forward. To me, it was an inspirational story. Who doesn't love a guy who falls but always gets up and in the end, comes away with the ultimate prize? It was a gritty story, that made a guy difficult for me to root against.
The majority of the fans outside of the UK don't view Bisping the same way, though. Bisping has always been viewed as a villain due to his trash talk and confidence. When Bisping won the championship, many MMA forums flooded with fans saying that the UFC needed to immediately schedule him another fight with someone who could put him to sleep in dramatic fashion. The UFC responded by booking him to fight an old foe, Dan Henderson.
Henderson is a legend of the sport who has a ton of career highlights to look at. Arguably the biggest one was his knock-out of Michael Bisping back in 2009. A lot of fans wanted history to repeat itself and the UFC used this demand to schedule the fight.
This past weekend, the rematch happened and man, what a fight it was. Henderson connects early and hurts Bisping twice in the first 2 rounds, but Bisping gets up both times, face bloodied and battered, waving Henderson on to send the message that he wasn't done. Being down 2 rounds to none early put Bisping in a large hole to dig himself out of. He ends up hitting Henderson with a large volume of punches to win the last 3 rounds of the fight, earning him a decision victory.
Bisping's career has now come full-circle. He won the title and has now defended it against the man who posterized him years ago. In this victory, Bisping now has the most UFC wins of anyone in the history of the promotion, a terrific accomplishment. With these recent accomplishments, I think Bisping has put himself in the discussion as Europe's greatest fighter. Some will tell me I'm crazy due to the rise of Ireland's Conor McGregor, and the longtime dominance of Fedor Emelianenko, but Conor has yet to defend his title, and Fedor never had a UFC fight.
McGregor fans will also tell me Conor has had success at a higher weight class, but so has Bisping. And though Fedor has fought and defeated UFC legends, he has never won a UFC belt which probably holds the most merit of any title out there. I get that it's early and that this could all change if McGregor defeats lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, but for now, it's hard to deny Bisping consideration.
After years of coming up short, Bisping never quit and he finally got to the top. He's loving every minute of it and I can definitely say that I am happy for him. Despite his villainous reputation, I'd find it hard to believe if a lot of other fans don't respect and like his story too. Congratulations Mike, enjoy the top of the mountain, you've earned it.